Have you recently gotten engaged? Congratulations! Are you deep in the trenches of the madness that is planning a wedding? E-hug. I had no idea what I was getting into when I began to plan my wedding. Prior to getting engaged, I had invested little to no time envisioning my wedding, and I generally dreaded attending weddings (with some exceptions). What I have always enjoyed though, is research and strategic planning. Likewise, when it was time to plan my wedding, I treated it like I would any professional project.
It’s been a year since I got married and with the rear view mirror in sight, here are 5 tips I would give any #BossBride:
1. Develop your wedding brand
To begin my wedding research, I followed major wedding sites like Bella Naija on social media. I pored through every single post on blogs like Aisle Perfect and bought books like Vogue Weddings: Brides, Dresses, Designers. Once I had a better grasp of things, it was time to decide on my wedding brand. What will my wedding look like? What will it feel like? I asked myself these questions because I didn’t want my wedding to be a copy-and-paste smorgasbord of every trend. It was especially important to me to have a bit of my personality stamped on the wedding.
Accordingly, I put together a concept note describing my vision for my wedding (aka #Blavid2015). I have always been passionate about the arts and I created my vision around this. Both my traditional and ‘white wedding’ were like mini-concerts: I had traditional dancers, a choir, musicians, a quartet and poetry reading. Of course several things went wrong on my wedding —but what most people (hopefully) remembered, was the music and the ambiance.
2. Get the budget figured out early
A vision without the finances to execute it is pretty much useless, so it’s important to get the finances figured out early. While the bride’s family traditionally pays for the wedding in Western countries like America, this is not always the case across the African continent. My husband and I come from different Nigerian cultures, with different traditional rules about who pays for the wedding. Thus, it was important for both families to discuss who was paying for what and decide on the budget early in the process. Getting a budget together will require getting various price quotes and a lot of prioritization, so it’s best to get an early head start.
3. Do not waste your human capital
Once I had a vision and a budget, it was time to figure out who would help me execute my vision. Beyond the usual suspects like my maid-of-honor and best friends; my mother and I delegated tasks and asked favors from whoever asked what they could do to help (perhaps to their shock, Ha!).
For example: a family friend who owns a marketing firm designed our logo and handled the programs; another who is a creative helped design my wedding website and invitations. One of my photographer friends did my engagement shoot, and another friend with a hair business hooked me up with a great hair extensions. A former family chauffeur organized a tour of the city for our foreign guests, and my brother-in-law’s fiancé made our bridal train proposals. I could go on and on, but the point here is: #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork.
4. Beware of social media vendors
Beautiful Instagram feeds do not a good vendor make. Some vendors spend so much time boosting their social media profile that they neglect their actual products and customer service. Additionally, particularly in Africa, some of the best vendors might not be social media savvy or on the Internet at all. No matter how many popular wedding hashtags a vendor is affiliated with, no matter how many blogs rave about a vendor, no matter if a vendor is a family member or friend —do not choose a vendor whose work you have not seen, touched, tasted, heard, etc.
5. Negotiate your contracts like a CEO
I shamelessly negotiated prices with every vendor I worked with and they all gave discounts. Two of the most stupid mistakes I made however, were paying some vendors 100% upfront and not insisting on written contracts. As a lawyer, I am very ashamed to admit this. I blame my desperation to book these vendors and what I’ll call PWSS (Pre-Wedding Stress Syndrome).
One vendor failed to deliver on almost everything he had promised—it nearly brought me to tears at my reception. When I wrote to him after the wedding, he apologized and explained that a bus with some of the materials he needed had not arrived on time. One year later, a promised refund remains buried in a labyrinth of excuses and justifications. I wanted to sue, but my pastor-mother insisted on leaving it all to God. The moral of this story: a) protect yourself by insisting on paying a balance after the wedding, and b) document all your expectations in a detailed contract.
A final note: flexibility and adaptability are important skills for any seasoned professional or entrepreneur in today’s world. The same applies to a wedding: you may have to make concessions to make your family, in-laws and partner happy. I was resistant to some things at first (Type A problems), but I eventually realized that I would have a much happier wedding if all the important parties had some buy-in. I also rolled with the punches—or danced with them, I should say. I decided I would be happy on my wedding day no matter what, and for every mishap I noticed, I danced a bit harder. By the end of my reception, my curls were undone, my foundation had bled, and I had danced my happy heart out.